I attended the Will Potter lecture at MonkeyWrench Books tonight, and am very glad I did. It had been a while since I had been to one of these sorts of events, and I always find them inspiring. The last thing I recall attending there was a discussion on the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act a while back, and I was not nearly as impressed. The discussion tonight, like the AETA discussion I went to over a year ago, was hosted by an animal rights activist, but in this case the speaker was also a well-spoken journalist.
To provide a little bit of background, Will Potter is a former Austinite who recently had a book published on the animal and earth liberation movements called Green is the New Red: An Insider's Account of a Social Movement Under Siege. In it, Will follows various members of the movement who have been victims of government surveillance, prosecution, and imprisonment (somewhat analogous to the "red scare" in the early to mid-20th Century that targeted suspected communists) and also provides analysis of the situation and ideas for the future.
After opening by reading a couple of excerpts from the book, Will spoke about the "green scare" in more general terms. He began by defining terrorism as “non-state violence,” and showed examples of the collusion between the federal government and large corporations in targeting "eco-terrorism." He painted a convincing picture of why this so-called “terrorism” has been so fiercely maligned. Unlike most that I've read and seen in the past on this subject, Will argued that the fear of animal and environmental rights activists is so strong not because of irrational fears of the left, but because of very rational, well-reasoned fears of the economic impact these activists are having. In other words, they fear us because we are winning.
Although Will did not mention this specifically, it got me thinking about how the public has often been supportive of animal liberation actions in the past, even among those who do not otherwise support the animal rights agenda. Tying this in with Will's examples of anti-green marketing in the media, I think it helps explain all the money put into large-scale campaigns against the animal rights movement. There has been a concerted effort to convince persons sympathetic to attacks on corporate profits to realign their thinking and view these actions as on par with violent forms of terrorism.
As an aside, I found myself somewhat distracted by Will's belt and shoes, which looked convincingly like leather. However, I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume they were faux, based on his otherwise consistent animal rights knowledge, although he did not speak specifically to his veganism.
Because I bought a copy of the book, I hope to write in more detail my thoughts on his writing and the movement in the near future. Ideally, I will also be inspired to take a more active role in fighting for animal rights, but we'll see how that goes.